With the Pac-12 tournament dwindling down, the Bears came back from a more-than-100-point deficit and proved why they’re No. 1 in the nation.
The Cal women’s swim team won its third Pac-12 title this past weekend in Federal Way, Wash., at the Pac-12 Championships. The Bears finished in first place with 1552.5 points, ahead of Stanford and USC, who took second and third, respectively.
The Bears started the tournament off strong with a win right off the bat in the 800 free relay on opening night. The foursome of Missy Franklin, Rachael Acker, Caroline Piehl and Elizabeth Pelton took first with a 6:53.57, well ahead of the previous Pac-12 record of 6:56.87 set in 2008.
“We talked a lot from the beginning of the year that you’ve got to be tough on that last morning,” said Cal head coach Teri McKeever. “You can’t have a great night if you don’t have a good morning.”
The rest of opening night was spent in either first- or second-place finishes by the Bears, leading to the first day of the tournament ending with Cal and Stanford tied at 120 points apiece. But that changed the next day — and not for the better.
The Bears were led by Franklin’s first-place finish in the 500 free, finishing nearly three seconds ahead of the runner-up. Franklin led the race the entire time, setting a new record in the 500 free with a time of 4:35.73, beating the previous record of 4:36.52 set in 2012.
The 200-yard individual medley featured four of the Bears, with Celina Li and Pelton finishing second and third, respectively.
But the celebrations of the day were marred by a disqualification in the last race of the night — the 200 free relay. The Bears finished first, outtouching Arizona by .05 seconds, but Cal was disqualified when officials ruled that the Bears left the blocks early on one of the exchanges. The second day ended on this low note for the Bears: Cal in third place with 400.5 points, trailing Stanford, with 507 points, and USC, with 448 points.
Entering the third day of the tournament more than 100 points behind Stanford, the Bears came out and dominated the competition. Rachel Bootsma finished first in the 100-yard backstroke once again, and Franklin set another meet record in the 200 free and the 400 medley relay with a season-best time.
The Bears’ Cindy Tran, Stephanie Au and Melanie Klaren finishing third, fourth and fifth, respectively, in the 100 back. Overall, Cal earned 619 points over the course of seven events throughout the day, and the Bears finished the third night in first place with 1,019 points.
“The last month has been rough a little bit with a few setbacks and then the relay (disqualification in 200 free relay Thursday),” McKeever said. “More than anything, the way we kept fighting is what I’m most proud of. Now, we’ll get to enjoy this for a day or two and then get refocused.”
Franklin once again dominated the podium on the fourth day of the tournament and was crowned the Pac-12 Swimmer of the Meet after winning the 100 free and anchoring the 400 free relay. Pelton also held on to her top spot in the 200 backstroke for the second straight year.
“It’s very exciting,” McKeever said about the Bear’s third conference title. “We fought back and had a lot of different women step up. It’s nice to make it an entire team effort. I think we did a real nice job of taking advantage of our opportunities.”